By Greg Price
Worries continue to mount in Taber over the federal government’s mandate to allow smoking marijuana legally in Canada by July 1, 2018, through Bill C-45 the Cannabis Act.
Taber Municipal Police Commission voted unanimously at its May 11 meeting to direct Taber Police Service Chief Graham Abela to work with administration to review the Town of Taber’s current bylaws, policies and procedures, and review the funding for required resources with administration in anticipation of the proposed Cannabis Act, effective in 2018.
“Once we know what the actual legislation from the province says, we can put that into place for our land-use bylaw for dispensaries or where you can go to smoke this stuff or buy paraphernalia,” said Cory Armfelt, CAO for the Town of Taber in opening remarks to the police commission prior to the motion being passed. “We have to make sure there is a bylaw in place to deal with that. From the administrative side of the town, we have to make sure the bylaw is compliant with the federal and provincial legislation. We need to make sure our bylaw is in place to be consistent with that, because if we are not, we could run into a very large problem with a distributor for instance. If distribution is allowable in context and we don’t have a bylaw in place that says, ‘Yes, you can have a dispensary with us with a specific use in the land-use bylaw, it must require a specific business licence for that’, then we have basically created a hole for ourselves that basically any business downtown can say they are a dispensary for marijuana.”
Rules can be put in place for the bylaw such as the business being 500 metres away from schools or places of worship.
“I want to make sure there is a Taber-created solution to this and that we are not just relying on the AUMA (Alberta Urban Municipalities Association) or the province to make recommendations to us on how we should handle the situation,” said Armfelt. “We can’t get ourselves into a situation where we have a hole in our land-use bylaw that someone opens up and starts a dispensary because they are a commercial entity and as a commercial entity they can do whatever they want — or can’t, it’s whatever the town decides. We need to make sure we are well ahead of the legalization to make sure our house is in order.”
Chief Abela noted to the police commission he has already been collecting resources through the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police discussing the requirements of having three levels of government in having regulations in place with cannabis laws that will come into effect July 2018.
“I suggest that you allow me to work with administration in order to come back to you with a solution within a bylaw to assist council in making a decision in how cannabis should be regulated within the Town of Taber,” said Abela, who would be working directly with Andrew Malcolm, director of planning and economic development, on a recommended bylaw.
Abela highlighted the extremely tight timeline municipalities have been given to be compliant with Bill C-45 that may or may not be delayed in a senatorial review.
“Usually legislation of this magnitude does not pass this quickly. We have been advised there will be little stakeholder consultation in relation to the provincial framework,” said Abela. “It is kind of being shoved at us like a big bazooka. If we wait, it will be December, January, February and then all the sudden all these regulations will come into effect and we need to take advantage of this as a community and get in front of it.”
Town councillor Randy Sparks voiced his displeasure over the legalization of marijuana by the Trudeau Liberals at a council meeting in late April, a stance he repeated once more as a member of the Taber Municipal Police Commission.
“The police do an awesome job in trying to curb this stuff and curbing drugs and curbing drug dealers, but they aren’t given the resources to be able to do it, and do it in an effective manner. If this is legalized, it’s just going to be a crapshoot for us as far as I’m concerned,” said Sparks. “ ‘Municipalities will be key partners in supporting the implementation of the proposed Act.’ Of course they will be, more downloading to the police services, social programs and everything like that to take care of the issues that will be created with the legalization of cannabis. Where are these resources going to come from? The Government of Canada and Alberta better be ready to help police services and police commissions out to do what they need to do. I’m so happy to hear with the commission, the chief and administration wants to get infront of this thing, it’s still nice to have things in place in town to protect the people of our town to the best of our ability. I’m very frustrated with this, because I can see in the United States where this has been legalized, the huge issues it has created within some States.”